Shweta Chari, Co-Founder, and CEO, The Opentree Foundation
Shweta Chari is driven by the need to bridge the gap between at-risk children and their mental wellbeing as well as cognitive development well within our lifetime.
Children are shaped majorly by the environments they grow up in. Keeping children in secure and engaging environments encourages them to connect with themselves as well as one another.
Did you know?
Children learn the fastest between the ages of 2-7! Their brains have twice as many synapses as adults which boosts the learning processes making this age group the most integral part of their lives.
In modern society, play-based learning has taken shape. This process helps children learn through playing and engaging in various ways. The importance of play-based learning is increasing day by day and it is being adopted by schools globally.
Today on TBCY, we have with us a woman who encourages and promotes play-based learning. She has made this process accessible to kids and focuses on their growth and development. We are pleased to welcome Shweta Chari to the podcast.
Shweta is the Co-Founder and CEO of the Opentree Foundation. She has a very interesting project called Toy Bank. She is a Star Social Entrepreneur of the Year and has been recognized, awarded, and felicitated several times.
In this interview with our host Ashutosh Garg, we are going to learn about Shweta’s story and what makes her personal brand so unique.
About Toy Bank:
To begin with, Shweta takes us on a nostalgic story behind her initiative, Toy Bank.
With a desire to make a change and relate to the education she was receiving, a young Shweta tried spending her time at a nonprofit. After realizing that teaching was not something that she wanted to do over there and something the kids did not enjoy, she started playing games with them. That is when she realized how playing simple games connected her to the kids. She heard all their stories and she became their closest friend!
There started an incredible journey of collecting toys and games from hundreds of people and bringing them in for the kids of the organization. Today, Toy Bank is a platform that is propagating the right to play while everything else (like toys) is just a medium. It is more of a play-to-learn program that encourages playing in children. Shweta has managed to expand her organizations and now collaborates with over 85 other nonprofits.
Why is play important?
As a social entrepreneur who is encouraging play and play-based learning, Shweta highlights why play is such an important part of a child’s life. She shares a very inspiring story and personal experience that made her realize the vitality of play and engagement among kids.
“The approach to playing what it does is, it allows for kids to analyze and understand and retrospect and introspect for themselves. What’s right from wrong and how they could stick with the so-called ‘right’ so that their life kind of shapes up to be better, make better life choices, make better decisions in their life as they grow up. And this continuously keeps happening through play-based learning. It allows the child to think independently.”
Further Shweta talks about the mental health of children and how they use toys as their friends. She explains how specific toys can make children feel cared for and loved. She highlights the problems of at-risk children and how play-based learning can help these children build good childhood memories.
On the subject of government support, Shweta highlights the National Education Policy of 2020 which has included play-based learning as a core way for early childhood development. She shares how this is a major improvement in the engagement of the government with children and their learning.
Her initiative has helped hundreds of children grow up in a safer, engaging, and more secure environment. Shweta’s story is indeed inspiring and welfare-oriented.
Tune in to know more about her work.
Shweta Chari is driven by the need to bridge the gap between at-risk children and their mental wellbeing as well as cognitive development well within our lifetime. Cognizant of the ‘power of play’ in strengthening the early years so that children grow up to be well-rounded adults, Shweta spent time organizing toy & game donation drives and volunteering with NGOs that worked with underserved children. Throughout this time, she saw in at-risk kids a desperate need for happy childhoods so they could grow up with joyous memories and be better individuals filled with kindness and empathy. Thus came into being Toybank — Development Through Play in 2004, which uses its Play2Learn program with the long-term goal of nurturing Early Childhood Development through Play. Daily, the non-profit impacts 56,000+ children at 400+ Play2Learn Centers across 12 districts of Maharashtra. Ardently pushing play forward, Shweta has written and spoken on the subject at many forums, including Right to Play, which was published in The Global Journal. Owing to her efforts and championing for mainstreaming play, she was awarded the ‘Game Changer’ Award (2016) by HR Club of India, Star Social Entrepreneur Award by Indira International Innovation (2011) and the Woman of Courage Award by Godrej (2011). In 2013, Shweta was labelled as the ‘Young Achiever’ by the Maharashtra Chamber of Commerce. She was selected as one of the Young Turks on CNBC’s programme and was featured on CNN IBN as a Young Social Changemaker. Inspired by the ethos, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men,” the Electronics Engineer continues to uphold the cause of learning and development through Play and works with a sense of urgency to address early childhood mental well-being to create a solid, empathetic society at large.